book review, recipe

Becoming + Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry (An Obama Family Favorite)

Like much of America, I’ve been looking forward to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming since the moment it was announced. As much as I’ve admired her from afar, I honestly never knew much about Michelle and was excited for the opportunity to learn more — from her, in her own voice.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle’s writing is as engaging as expected. From the beginning of the memoir — a section entitled “Becoming Me,” in which she describes her life growing up on the South Side of Chicago — to the end of “Becoming More” — the final section in which she discusses her and her family’s life in the spotlight while Barack held office — it was a joy to get to know her better.

Though politics certainly find their way into the book, especially the last section where it’s nearly unavoidable, it is much more about a woman’s life. It’s relatable and truthful. I appreciated Michelle’s openness; she didn’t hold back as she shared the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant as well as the difficulties of living life in the spotlight as a politician’s wife. I’ve always felt Michelle was a breath of fresh air, and her memoir was just what I needed in this current political climate. I put it down refreshed and hopeful.

Part of what I loved about Michelle’s point-of-view was her unique experience balancing motherhood with her career and Barack’s political aspirations. From the outside, she made it look easy, but “having it all” rarely is. Pulled in all directions, Michelle couldn’t always fit in workouts and make healthy, homemade meals.

She made the conscious decision to do better by herself and her family and eventually brought in personal chef Sam Kass to help lighten her load. Sam Kass prepared a few meals a week at the house and provided ready-to-go meals she could make when he wasn’t around. He taught the Obamas to eat with the seasons and how to create delicious meals that weren’t time-consuming or bland. Eventually, Sam accompanied them to the White House (and helped with Michelle’s famous garden) and rose to his own fame.

It was through Sam I came across the recipe I made today. One of the Obama family’s favorites, it’s featured in his 2018 cookbook, Eat a Little Better: Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry. No surprise, it’s quick and easy to make as well as flavorful. I served it alongside the Perfect Baked Chicken Breast, which is also a recipe I will be filing away for the future.

To start, I prepared my sweet potatoes, peeling them and cutting them into half inch cubes.

Cubed Sweet Potatoes

I poured them into a large skillet with preheated olive oil, covered it and allowed them to cook, stirring occasionally. Once, they were tender, I added fresh spinach leaves, allowing the mixture to cook until the leaves were wilted.

Sweet Potatoes with Spinach

Then, I added the finishing touches — pine nuts, golden raisins, salt, pepper and a bit of balsamic vinegar.

Sam Kass's Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry

Paired with the chicken (and a fresh salad), Scott and I enjoyed a filling and tasty meal with enough leftovers for the next night as well. I love a good two-in-one cooking session!

Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry with Chicken

Healthy Dinner in a Hurry

Have you read Becoming? What did you think of Michelle’s story?

If you’ve tried any of Sam Kass’s other recipes, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry with Chicken

Sweet Potatoes in a Hurry

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Servings 4


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • pounds sweet potatoes (4 medium) peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • ½ cup dried currants or golden raisins
  • ¼ cup pine nuts toasted
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  • Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet with a lid over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then stir in the sweet potatoes and ½ to ¾ teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat if the potatoes take on color too quickly. If the potatoes are browned but not yet soft, add ¼ cup water to the pan and cook until evaporated. Repeat as needed until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes total.
  • Add the spinach, gently tossing until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the currants, pine nuts, and balsamic and season with salt to taste.


From: Eat a Little Better by Sam Kass
Keyword vegetarian


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1 Comment

  • Reply Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku December 24, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I desperately want to read Becoming! This is the first review I’ve read of the book and you sold me. Well, let’s be honest, Michelle did first. But the fact that it’s an empowering woman’s story makes it even better. That said, it’ll be at least 6 months before I pick this up. First reads are always library books for me. The wait is 6+ months!

    I have tried his Can Salad before; it’s not a recipe I would have made up on my own, but I really enjoyed it. I’ve been told I should get a copy of Eat A Little Better. If all his recipes are like this one and Can Salad, well, some Kass in my life will definitely influence my flavor pallete in new ways!

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